The council of the National Steering Committee For Racial And Religious Harmony, NSCRRH, convened to discuss the case of censorship in Singapore on 20 June 2017. Many delegates stated a few expected changes and reasons behind the changes, but there were also other delegates who disagreed with these changes. This hot debate went on as each delegate and party wanted to achieve their own agenda.
The case of censorship is a very big topic that many wished to debate on. The Ministry of Finance brought up the topic of social cohesiveness, and mentioned that events such as carnivals can be organised to increase social and religious cohesiveness. However, the Taoist federation disagreed with the idea mentioned by the Ministry of Finance, and stated that large scale events do not usually create social cohesiveness. In fact, social cohesiveness can only be achieved by ironing out misconceptions through daily interactions with people of different religions. Hence, the Ministry should not merely focus on the big picture, but also the small details.
But, does the Ministry of Finance really care? If it does, then why has there been no indication of improvement? It seems as if they are all talk and no action.
The representative of the Association of Muslim Professional then asked whether everyone in the council believed in censorship. “Censorship should be left to the committee itself,” the representative said. But, the Ministry of Finance strongly disagreed, reminding everyone that the government is, too, part of the committee, and cares about the wellbeing of all citizens.
However, does this mean that the Ministry does not have faith in its own citizens? What makes the representative think that the citizens are not capable of making their own decisions? How dare he say that Singaporeans do not have discipline nor knowledge?
The Taoist Federation bravely stepped forward to speak up about this topic. “The Ministry is not taking care of the people,” he accused. He felt that the Ministry was not doing much to ensure its people’s happiness – the Ministry talked about creating a platform for the people to provide feedback, which it would consider before amending current censorship laws, yet this would be a pointless project since the government would likely reject the ideas provided by its citizens anyway.
The representative of the Taoist Federation was right that the government does not listen to the people. The government frequently makes its own judgments, so having a platform would be a waste of time.
Of course, the Ministry of Finance disagreed with the ideas put forth by the Taoist Federation, and stated that the Ministry’s primary concern is ensuring the happiness and wellbeing of its citizens. Hence, there is no way that the Ministry does not care about its citizens.
The next delegate, Mr Low Thia Kiang, leader of the esteemed Workers' Party, raised the opinion that dialogues should include religious groups. But, the Ministry of Finance felt that this idea may backfire, as there may be racially insensitive remarks made.
Many delegates such as the Ministry of Education (MOE), Hindu Club and Mr Teo Chee Hean all talked about the racism. Both the representatives of the Hindu Club and Mr Teo Chee Hean talked about racism, and the importance of understanding how to differentiate an offensive racism remark from a joke. The MOE representative felt that racist remarks should never be said, even if they are intended to be jokes, as these stringent guidelines would set a standard for all students.
The debate saw an exchange of ideas between the Ministry and the other parties, as they were all against the ideas proposed by the Ministry. In fact, delegates felt that the Ministry was creating flaws instead of fixing them. The Ministry tried its best to control the matter, but the other parties refused to agree to anything that the Ministry said, as the ideas introduced by the Ministry contained several flaws. Overall, this aggressive debate was filled with several disagreements.